Painting a Picture

Mary Sparrow and Bruce Bouley are both well-known for their artistic talents. While one is a painter and the other a photographer, they both continue to capture and showcase the beauty and the magic of the West Highland Terrier.

You have been creating fine art paintings for over 30 years. What do you think makes your work different to other artists?

“I’ve been told” that my work is different in that I am able to capture the essence of the personality or soul of the animals and people that I paint. It makes me happy to know that is how it is perceived as I feel I connect with the subjects while I paint them, and when each one departs my studio, it is as if I watch one of my children or close friends leave to their new homes. 

You’re based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Was this where you were brought up? How much influence did your hometown have on your creativity?

I’m based in a small town just outside of Charlotte, Shelby, North Carolina. In the western part of the state, however I grew up in a very small farming town, Williamston, in the eastern part of the state. There was truly very little to do in that little community other than to rely on our imagination and creativity, thus resulting in many hours with a crayon in my hand, or paint by number set!

Did you study art or teach yourself? Who is your favourite artist? 

I have been “studying” art all my life through my own trial and error but have had no formal training. I feel very fortunate to be living in the age of the Internet to have access to so many wonderful tutorials etc at my fingertips.  My favourite artist is John Singer Sargent, his use of colour and loose brushwork make me drool!

You’re a much-loved artist within the West Highland Terrier community as you always manage to capture the beauty of the breed. Do you have Westies? Why do you enjoy painting them?

Thank you! I do have a Westie; his name is Fergus and he found me through the Westie Rescue Southeast after being rescued from a puppy mill. We have had him since last August and he paints with me every day and has become a stellar Studio Dog. Fergus is not my first Westie however, my first was Harry and he crossed the rainbow bridge last year and is the subject of many of the Westie paintings that can be found floating the Internet these days. I sort of stumbled across the breed many years ago by accident and have been obsessed with them ever since.  I had never even known a Westie now that I think of it, but came across a super cute photo of a West Highland puppy and painted it, put it on eBay and a bidding war ensued. It was my first experience with a true war over something I had painted, that led me to paint another westie and another and another until I had painted so many, I HAD to have one for myself and that is how I became a Westie Mom and painter! Having him around gave me lots of reference material and the following grew from there. Because of this mischievous, frisky, and devoted little breed I have been fortunate to make so many cyber friends around the world resulting in a wonderful line of little white models. I could probably paint one with my eyes closed at this point. In fact, there was a Westie named “Robbie” from the UK whose father was generous to share many photos of him for reference photos and he is also the subject of many of my paintings. 

Your ‘Joy to the World’ print of the Christmas Westie is breathtakingly beautiful. Is this a best seller when it comes to your Westie art? If so, how many countries has this print been sent to? Will you continue to paint Westies?

I don’t know that I would say that particular painting is a best seller so to speak though it definitely does well during the holidays. I honestly could not tell you how many places that specific print has been sold but I can tell you that my dog paintings and prints have been shipped to over 27 countries to date. With the largest amount going to the U.S obviously but the U.K and Germany seem to be close seconds! And of course, I will ALWAYS paint Westies! 

You’ve expanded your art by creating images on accessories such as T-shirts, mugs, phone cases…how receptive have your customers been to this? How important is it to you that your art be ‘used’ in real life as opposed to it being ‘untouched’ and just looked at?

The accessories are truly an afterthought, it was a service offered by the companies that are able to distribute the prints worldwide. They do sell well but are definitely second to the wall art. I don’t think I’ve ever considered if it was important to me that it be used in any specific way, what is more important to me is that the customer is happy with the image in whatever way they choose to enjoy it. I’ve mentioned to my husband many times that I get something out of my job that not many people get to experience, and that money cannot buy, I get to go to bed every night knowing that my work got a smile out of people all over the world at least once that day. It doesn’t matter to me if it is the original on someone’s wall, a greeting card, throw pillow or just the image popping up in someone’s Facebook feed! I had fun painting it, and I appreciate more than I can express when people take the time to tell me seeing it made their day, or a painting reminded them of their beloved dog from childhood or whatever the circumstance may be. It is very fulfilling and rewarding.

Tell us about some of the celebrities you’ve painted.

HA! I came to realize they are just normal people. The first time I flew out to Hollywood to meet with Frances Fisher (most known for her role as Rose’s mother in “Titanic”) I was mortified and scared to death. The whole mystique around fame and Hollywood came crashing down when I was invited into their home for a photoshoot. Here was Rose’s mom and her daughter with legendary Clint Eastwood, as down to earth and friendly as my next door neighbour, dog bones on the floor and all. We became fast friends and were able to meet a few other times again for fun when out on the east coast. But each experience I have had with any celebrity or their family in the case of posthumous portraits have led me to the same conclusion, they were nothing like I expected and all wonderful, friendly very normal people!

Bruce Bouley – Renowned photographer

You’ve had a passion for photography since you were a child, and your father was also a big

inspiration. What drives you now?

The age of digital photography and Photoshop. The digital age allows the photographer to see the image and make corrections to it in an instant without the wait of the film era. Also, the advances in the digital cameras and photographer equipment which makes it hard for even the amateur to take a bad picture.

The addition of Photoshop and other digital processing software allows the Photographer to become creative and to take their photography to the next level in creating Fine-Art Photography, a new form of digital art. When photography is in your blood it is like any other form of art it is hard to not have a passion for it. I am not only a professional photographer but also a Photography and Photoshop instructor for Adult Senior Learners where I live in Florida.

Your love of Westies is apparent and Westie owners around the world adore your work. Is your work

photography or painting or a combination of both?

My work is a form of art called Fine-Art Photography. Fine-art photography is photography created in line with the vision of the photographer as an artist, using photography as a medium, such as post processing digital software, for creative expression. The goal of fine-art photography is for the photographer to express an idea, a message, or an emotion by using a montage of images. This stands in contrast to representational photography, such as photojournalism, which provides a documentary visual account of specific subjects and events, literally representing objective reality rather than the subjective intent of the photographer.

Using the post processing digital software allows the artist/photographer to create artworks to mimic many different types of artistic media (Chalk, Charcoal, Oil Paint, Pastels, Watercolor, Brush Stroke, etc). So, I guess you can say my Fine-Art Photography is a combination of both.

Where does your love of Westies come from? Have you owned Westies yourself or does this come

purely from your customers?

My wife and I have always been dog lovers. As a child I always had dogs. We came to know the Westie breed in 2004 when we purchased two Westie pups, Angel and Tina. We had many other different breeds before purchasing the Westie. That is all it took, and we fell in love with the breed. Angel and Tina both passed away at the age of 14 from cancer. We knew we wanted another Westie or two, but we did not want to buy a puppy again, so we adopted two, Mercy and Lacey. We had Mercy less then two months when we took her to be spayed and the operation went bad, and she died two days after the spaying. We now have a Facebook page “Mercy’s Story” that helps bring awareness to pet owners about the dangers they face.

Our following on “Mercy’s Story” Facebook page has also enhanced the love of the Westie breed in us even more. The Westie is such a smart, loyal and adorable dog you can’t help but fall in love with them. We are also foster parents to the Westie breed and recently have adopted two more – Carson and Cooper. Our Westie family is currently made up of Lacey, Carson and Cooper.

Your company, Westie Fine Art Photography, showcases your talents in painting and photography.

Isn’t it a little unusual for artists to produce both? Do you find these skills similar, or do you have a

different eye for both? Do you prefer one or the other?

I guess you could say it is unusual to produce both. Most artists create in only one or maybe two artistic media, however, Photoshop is a digital software not just a photography editor but is a graphics editor also. This allows users the ability to create, enhance, or edit images, artwork, and illustrations of all types in many different forms of artistic media. Depending on the Fine-Art Photography I’m working on it could take me anywhere from a couple hours to weeks to create the artwork.

To a certain extent once you learn the digital software, the skill set in creating your artworks is similar.

Having a different eye for both I think is in the artist and their creative imagination.

I really do not have a preference. My love and passion for creating Fine-Art Photography and bringing out the viewers’ feelings and emotions allows me to be flexible.

I really do not have a company, but I have my website, Westie Fine Art Photography, where I offer my artwork.

Are you a self-taught artist/photographer?

I am self-taught in the artistry of Fine-Art Photography and the use of Photoshop and Lightroom in creating my artwork. As a Professional Photographer I was taught by my father. I had formal training in photography in the military and as a police photographer. I also owned my own photography studio where I specialized in Portraiture and Wedding Photography.

What have you observed about the West Highland Terrier and its character? What makes them

magical for you?

Before we purchased our first Westies, I did a lot of research on the breed. One of the biggest misnomers I read about the breed is that the Westie is not a lap dog. We have owned six of them and each and every one of them are lap dogs. Their personality is so outgoing. They are loving, compassionate and very very smart. In owning six Westies they all have a different and loveable personalities. What is not to love and like about these precious beautiful loyal dogs?

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